Apple employees and fans around the world were shocked by the news last Monday that Steve Jobs would take indefinite leave because of undisclosed health problems, ceding day-to-day control to his chief operating officer Tom Cook while remaining involved in major decisions.
Apple’s founder broke the news to staff in an e-mail early on a US public holiday, limiting immediate stock market reaction.
In the e-mail, Mr Jobs said he hoped to be back “as soon as I can, in the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy." Jobs wrote. Mr Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009 during a six-month medical leave and his latest departure has raised concerns that his pancreatic cancer might have has returned.
Mr Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 but was ousted in the mid-1980s after a power struggle. He returned in 1997, bringing the company back from near bankruptcy with products including the iPod, iPhone and iPad that helped it become the world’s second most valuable company by market value, behind ExxonMobil.
Tim Cook is universally praised for his business acumen. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the computer industry, serving in leadership roles at IBM, Intelligent Electronics and Compaq before joining Apple in 1998. Cook quickly gained the favor of the notoriously hard-to-please Jobs, and he was named COO in 2005.
"There is a lot of respect for Tim Cook internally at Apple and externally, and he has proved to be able to drive the company well," said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner.
Cook is responsible for Apple's product sales and operations, overseeing the company's manufacturing, distribution and inventories, as well as negotiating with wireless networks that carry the iPhone. But what makes Apple cool and popular -- the products' design and marketing -- falls directly under Steve Jobs' purview. That's a field in which Cook has largely been untested.